An ambitious but flawed anti-thriller pitting a thoughtful cop against an alleged terrorist in big-sky Montana. Even before he came to Rozette, Henry Skelton had made a name for himself by doing time for assaulting an FBI agent in San Francisco. Now he's the only suspect in the bombing of a helicopter—a bombing that even he acknowledges he witnessed without seeing any other survivors on the scene. And since long- shot senatorial candidate Merle Puhl's expecting a campaign visit from the former US president, the Secret Service is doing its best, not very successfully, to keep a close eye on Skelton. But Ray Bartell, the local cop assigned as liaison for the Service's ``lunacy patrol,'' finds Skelton a little too ripe a provocateur to believe. He's impressed by his preservationist wife Helen's assessment of Skelton's longtime companion, nurse Gina Lozano, and by the withering denials Skelton issues on the rare occasions when Bartell gets close enough to talk to him. When he's not puzzling over his father—a grizzled cowboy who's suddenly planning his film debut in Busted Heart, the latest flick starring actor-rancher Brandon McWilliams—Bartell puzzles over the Puhl campaign, which seems to have room for a lot more dirty tricks than a barrel of monkeys, or a single sincere survivalist. Meanwhile, Reid (The Red Corvette, 1992) underplays the mandatory interrogations, gunfights, and car chases to focus on the deepening relationship between the decent cop and an antagonist maddened by all the things that drive Bartell himself crazy. But this double portrait isn't well served by the apparatus of the suspense novel, no matter how persistently Bartell keeps disavowing his role as the heroic dispenser of justice. A well-meaning mess, with a story that sputters and fizzles and a pair of salt-and-pepper heroes never quite as compelling as they're meant to be.
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